Saturday Night: David Byrne at The Fillmore Miami Beach

Categories: Concert Review
David Byrne 12.13.08 Fillmore 015.jpg

David Byrne
Saturday December 13, 2008
The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theatre

Better Than: Just about any show you've ever been to. Really.

I've gotta apologize to David Byrne, because every time his acrobatic sidekick Lily Baldwin took the stage during last night's dynamite Fillmore Gleason show, I kept my eyes on her and not him. That's not to say that David didn't look nifty - in fact, he had a presence that was at once quiet and commanding - but for me Lily stole the show.

Okay, so I exaggerate. Kind of. Byrne was characteristically terrific. So was his seven-piece band. And, come to think of it, so were Natalie Kuhn and Steven Reke, the other two of three twirling, swirling, leaping and lunging dancers David so effectively employed throughout the concert. But that Lily chick, man, she's a knock-out!

Thankfully for David, my dream girl staged for only eight of the 20-song set, which gave me ample opportunity to also focus on the man of the hour.

Make that two hours. Like I said, David and company delivered 20 songs, from the spiritually-syncopated set-opener, "Strange Overtones," through the eerily and ultimately frenetic set-closer, "I Feel My Stuff," both off the recent collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

And what a wily collaboration it is. As I wrote here earlier this week Everything's quite the collection, so quite, in fact, that it inspired Byrne to take to the road and perform seven of its 11 songs, as well as some of the most remarkable tracks in his and Eno's collaborative history, Talking Heads and otherwise.

Yes, I said Talking Heads, that ragtag gaggle of boho soulsters who are responsible for some of the most memorable moments in 20th century songdom, many of which were produced by Brian Eno, and much of which were performed at The Fillmore.

I'm talking hits, dig? The stuff that comprises the soundtrack of our lives. The pulse of "Once in a Lifetime," (Remain in Light), the pump of "Life During Wartime" (Fear of Music), the stir of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" (More Songs About Buildings and Food), and the rage of "Burning Down the House" (Speaking in Tongues), which may not have been produced by Eno but didn't bother anybody in the least.

In between there were lesser known but no lesser considered Heads' classics such as "I Zimbra," "Air" and "Heaven" (all from Fear), and "Houses in Motion" (also from Remain), as well as the rousing "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)" (from Twyla Tharp's The Catherine Wheel) and the post-disco "Help Me Somebody," one of the tracks from Bryne and Eno's seminal My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the found sound-voiced LP that paved the way for the sampler set.

But a set list only tells you what was played, not how, so I've gotta tell you that Byrne and his backing band performed with a verve and an alacrity seldom seen in this age of pose and preen. Resplendent in white against a pitch black backdrop, they were a study in understated elegance. And the added interaction of the dancers made it less a mere concert and more a choreographed performance ala Tharp or Stop Making Sense. Hell, but for the shock of white hair, Byrne could've stepped straight from Jonathan Demme's '83 film of the same-named tour.

And, I admit, even with dear Lily flying all over the place, Byrne's goofy, keen cool did take me aback, to a time and a place where smarts and soul and showmanship all can collide and make for one heluva night.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I've always been partial to gentlemen eggheads with good taste, mad sense, and the ability to keep a beat.

Random Detail: At one point Steven Reke actually leap-frogged over David Byrne.

By the Way: You can stream the whole of Everything on his site.

-- John Hood


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